Monday, September 12, 2011

A serendipitous connection

That I have had an opportunity to co author with Sheryl is remarkable. A serendipitous connection has led to sincere friendship, continued collaboration and always learning—despite our diverse geographical locations in Ohio and Virginia. Where and how did it begin-- Fueled by my life-long passion for learning about learning and my desire to continue making some contribution to public education after retiring, I have benefited from a number of unlikely, unique connections that map my journey to The Connected Educator. Since life circumstances dictated I work from home in 2004 after 35 years in the classroom, I searched the web for educators with similar interests and an enthusiasm for innovation.

One blog linked to another, then another, until I found myself at Anne Davis’ "Edublog Insights" and her post describing a group of teacher cadets with whom she was blogging. I had just completed three years in a similar program for high school students who wanted to be teachers and was delighted to find a like-minded group. I contacted Anne through the comment feature on her blog, seeking her reaction to my mentoring her students through comments on their own posts. Many comments to students, emails and Skype calls with Anne later, I began reading Darren Kuropatwa’s blog, "A Difference" at her insistence.

Darren often pointed to his class blogs as he transparently shared his evolving pedagogy and one day put out a call for e-mentors for his students. I immediately submitted an email asking if he might consider my acting in that role, elated at the possibility of developing additional virtual relationships with young people. Consider the irony here, Darren is a master mathematics teacher in Manitoba who taught pre-calculus and AP calculus, whereas I completed Algebra 2 and Geometry some 40 years back, with Logic meeting my mathematics requirement in college. Thrilled that Darren invited me to participate and being one to always jump right in, I was immediately commenting and posting with many and varied questions pushing high school mathematics students to reflect upon their learning. Often Darren generously posted excerpts from our conversations on his blog as he, his students and I learned from each other that year and the next.

One day in 2006, a post on Darren’s blog really caught my attention--- he, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, and Wesley Fryer would be co founding a cutting edge, totally online, free annual conference for teachers by teachers, "K12 Online". In response to their call for assistance and for presenters, fascinated and excited by what I saw as enormous possibilities for teacher learning, I immediately volunteered any assistance they felt that I could provide. I was speechless sometime later to be invited to serve as continuity editor for the initial conference. Through collaborative work on the conference wiki, and Skype planning calls, Sheryl and I came to know each other. The following year, I was honored and humbled to receive an email from Darren, asking if I would serve as one of the four co-conveners. In September of 2007, Sheryl and I were on Skype for weeks as she uploaded files to a server and sent me links that I used in the blog posts I created on the conference presentation blog. For two weeks in October of that year, Sheryl and I were up together in the early morning on Skype rolling out presentations on the blog and tweeting the presentations.

As different in some ways as night and day, yet playing to each other's strengths, working well together and sharing common passions for learning, for making the world a better place-- the collaborations have continued to this place as has my learning. An opportunity to compile research on online communities with Sheryl led to my deepened understandings of the power of connected learning and communities. A subsequent connection led to my role as community leader in Powerful Learning Practice's virtual learning communities in which I constantly learn from community members. This story is just one illustration of many of the potential in the digital age for networked, connected educators to collaborate with and learn from each other as they aspire to a more accomplished global practice.

Thank you, Sheryl

The Connected Educator

The cover to our book: The Connected Educator: Learning and leading in a Digital Age which comes out early Oct. Sheryl and I hope you will consider reading it and getting a copy for your faculty as well.

Who should read this book?
To all learners—educators, teachers, administrators, curriculum developers, parents, and students—who have not yet considered the benefits of network and community participation, who have just dipped a toe into the torrent of opportunity, or who already are immersed in digital tools, we ask you to explore with us the power of connected, self-directed professional learning.
Help us remix the concepts of professional learning communities, personal learning networks, and communities of practice to support lifelong learning. Make use of and extend our suggested applications. Commit with us to develop a shared wisdom that supports teachers and leaders as learners first. As we offer our expertise to each other and work to solve problems collaboratively, we will build collective intelligence. This new way of learning will set our children on the road to a life of passion-driven, connected learning.

What Is Different About This Book?
This book is a journey into what it means to be a learner first and an educator second. It is a book about you, about your professional learning. It’s also about us—the collective us in education—and how our own learning can transform student learning through a systemic vision of professional development.

We decided books about being connected need to model what they promote and not be just a linear experience. So we ask you to Get Connected in each section by participating in an authentic application that completes each chapter. This is a crowdsourcing activity, that is, an activity in which readers come together in a virtual space and add to the collective knowledge of what is being discussed. You will learn to be a connected learner not only by reading about connected learning but by doing what connected learners do—co-constructing meaning and knowledge.

How in the world did I come to be able to compose this post-- read the story here.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Spaghetti sauce and Connected Coaching

The homemade spaghetti sauce last week was rich, flavorful-- just downright extraordinary.

I attribute most of that to the quality of the ingredients-- something about organic farm fresh tomatoes, new onions, fresh organo, real garlic, and a touch of hot sauce to add a bit of a zing. Yet I've used those same ingredients before and the sauce never had the unique flavor of this batch. There must be something to the love, to the passion that becomes part of the process. No longer a strict recipe follower when I'm putting together a dish I've made before, there is the possibility of an extra large clove of garlic, maybe dried oregano-- always evolving, responding to conditions at hand.

While I was washing the dishes and the pot in which the sauce simmered to take on all its goodness, similarities to our Powerful Learning Practice Connected Coaching pilot struck me. That experience was downright extraordinary too. The ingredients were topnotch. Our 6 coaches, all accomplished educators-- Brenda Sherry, Marsha Ratzel, Zoe Branigan-Pipe, John Pearce, Mark Carbone, and Chad Evans-- brought their own gits and talents to deep discussions around coaching and entered communities with enthusiasm and passion. Our unique model was well flavored by dashes of Tschannen-Morans' Evocative Coaching, Costa/Garmston's Cognitive Coaching, Knight's Instructional Coaching and Dana/Yendel-Hoppey's Coaching Inquiry Oriented Communities. The zing emanated from Dean Shareski's exceptional vision and expertise for leveraging images and video, moving beyond text, in online spaces, and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach's brilliant insights around developing community.

The coaching process, unlike the sauce, lacked any prescriptive recipe and was not one we'd tried before; we let it simmer a bit, added a bit more of Tschannen-Moran and Knight, turned down the heat for a while, then back to a simmer, not unlike our description of the model as one of wayfinding with looping back, checking pathmarkers (building trust, questioning, and facilitating design thinking). I'm guessing the inquiry based appreciative elements (think more than dashes of Tshannen-Morans) increased the likelihood of such an exemplary experience. And unlike the sauce, our coaching was a collaborative process. The joy, the rush that comes from engagement in collegial conversations around difficult topics can not be overstated.

In focus sessions, we attempted to distinguish the specific ingredients or parts of the process that led to such a remarkable experience; we were unable. We were in total agreement that the ingredients and the process intertwined into a model for coaching in online spaces that should be replicated --- again.

Like the spaghetti sauce, the grand aftertaste leads to a longing for more.
Additional opportunities for connected coaches are simmering; I can't wait. They will have Dean, Sheryl, Marsha, Brenda, Zoe, John, Chad and Mark to thank for their creativity and imagination, for their passion and perseverance in concocting Connected Coaching in 2011.

And I am anticipating too the next batch of farm fresh tomatoes and the potential to replicate that unique sauce once again.

Photo Credit

Monday, September 05, 2011

A request--

I have been spending time with a fine young man-- he's just entered 8th grade and is interested in so many things. He's taught me lots about cows (his have a pedigree and he shows them at the county fair), told me about his scouting badges and camping, and the basketball and baseball teams that he follows.

And he finds math pretty challenging. As he told me very quietly and earnestly as we were working on a math problem sometime back --"I really want to do better." My quick equally quiet reply-- "I never thought you didn't." --and my heart sank a bit because that comment seemed to indicate a number of folks had indicated to him they didn't.

As school has begun again, he's excited and more organized. He wants to have a good year.

I really hope his teachers and the teachers of so many other youngsters for whom school can be a challenge in so many ways have had an opportunity to read Bud Hunt's letter to teachers that has popped up every year since its orginal posting in 2008. I hope they'll consider his request:
"I ask you to be brave and humble and kind and tenacious and wise and caring and gentle and fierce. We so need you to do well."
And I hope his teachers and all teachers will consider Zoe Weill's call for a humane and relevant education :
"...our children will no longer be bored when the eagerness to learn is fed by an education that is meaningful and relevant to their own lives and to the gorgeous, incredible world they will one day inherit. Their enthusiasm, nourished and nurtured by schooling that matters and excites, will lead inexorably to knowledge and skills that will help solve the global challenges we face and create a world where we can all survive and thrive."
When Bud's hopes for teachers and Zoe's call for relevant learning are heeded, a fine young man--all our students-- will realize their worth and find their place in our everchanging global world. They deserve no less. Don't you think?